The START Project

The START Project is funded by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education to provide evidence-based training, technical assistance, and resources to educators in Michigan that serve students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). START is a statewide collaborative effort to make systems level changes to improve the educational programming for students with ASD through the use of evidence-based practices. 

Over time, the focus of the START Project has become systems level change initiated and implemented by school staff and administrators willing to commit to using evidence-based practices in the areas of educational programming, professional development, parent-professional collaboration, and cross district/county collaboration. 

View the full description of the START Project here. 

The START Project at Grand Valley State University encompasses three primary components: Training & Coaching, Collaboration & Coordination, and Resources.

Evidence-Based Practices

Focus of the START Project

  • Increasing professional knowledge of evidence-based practices and skills to implement practices for individuals with ASD at the student, classroom, building, and district levels.
  • Promoting inclusion opportunities and access to general education curriculum.
  • Providing accommodations and options for differentiated output to increase access to general education curriculum and settings.
  • Training school staff in team process and problem solving to improve efficiency and productivity of teams.
  • Providing training in positive behavioral interventions and supports to improve behavior supports at the building and individual student level.
  • Establishing a set of universal supports to serve as a foundation for effective programming for all students with ASD that include program guiding principles, family involvement, team process, paraprofessional training, visual supports, peer supports, behavior supports, and educational strategies.
  • Creating peer to peer support programs that promote regular interactions between students.
  • Reworking early childhood special education programming to actively structure learning opportunities and engagement.
  • Improving transition outcomes through a systematic process of discovery, planning, natural supports, and community engagement.
  • Promoting collaboration and coordination across districts, counties, and regions to increase opportunities for sharing training and resources and moving toward a common set of principles and practices for effectively educating students with ASD.
  • Increasing capacity for local school professionals to provide training and coaching locally.
  • Increasing parent knowledge of evidence-based practices and engagement with the school team.
  • Linking and coordinating with other state initiatives focused on improving outcomes for students.

Core Goals and Activities

  • Intensive training and technical assistance to school districts using a team-based approach at the early childhood, K-12, and secondary transition levels.
  • A coaching model supports the implementation of evidence-based practices at the building and district levels.
  • Regional Collaborative Networks (RCN) serves as the infrastructure for collaboration and coordination across school districts, intermediate school districts, and community stakeholders, allowing shared training and resources and systemic planning on a broad scale.
  • Access to resources and information delivered through the project web site, conferences, leadership meetings, and summer institutes.

Targeted Goals and Activities

  • Transition to adulthood, addressed through Building Your Future (BYF) training and technical assistance, focuses on a V3 Discovery process (vision, vocational profile, and visual resume) and expanding peer supports to employment settings.
  • Early childhood training and technical assistance that is grounded in evidence-based practices and focused on supporting school personnel to facilitate and expand learning opportunities
  • Peer to peer support provides increased opportunities for students with ASD to connect with peers in general education settings.
  • Expansion of inclusive opportunities for students with ASD including access to the general education curriculum.